Czech court again acquits youths accused of assaulting man because of his skin color, prosecutor may appeal
The District Court for Prague 10 has again acquitted three fans of the Czech football club Sigma Olomouc who were charged with assaulting a dark-skinned man on a tram in the capital two years ago, saying once again that it has not yet been proven that the individuals charged committed the crime. The verdict has yet to take effect and the prosecutor may appeal.
Štěpán Černín, Tomáš Satora and Josef Richard Uhlík all claim they are innocent. The trio face up to eight years in prison for battery, defamation on the basis of race, and rioting.
Judge Ivana Hynková first acquitted the three youths in May, but the Municipal Court in Prague, which was the appeals venue, overturned her decision. Hynková said on 5 December that while some football fans may have assaulted the man, the evidence presented did not convince her that Černín, Satora and Uhlík were the exact culprits.
"The participation of the defendants in the attack is possible ... however, none of them has specified the participation of the individual defendants in that act," the judge explained. The victim, a computer programmer originally from Africa who has been living in Prague for more than a decade, suffered injuries as a result of the assault on 4 November 2017.
The victim was travelling by tram when a big group of Olomouc fans heading to a match with the Bohemians club of Prague got into the same car with him. According to the indictment, the victim first had to deal with racist insults from the fans, which he ignored.
However, somebody in the crowd of football fans squeezed a lemon on him, so he then did his best to defend himself, after which some of the fans assaulted him with kicks and punches, according to the indictment. The victim ended up in surgery with bruises to his head and nose; the incident also caused him post-traumatic stress disorder.
The prosecutor proposed a sentence of 2.5 years in prison for Černín and Uhlík on 5 December and sought four years in prison for Satura because he is wanted for other crimes. "Not only is it necessary to make it clear to the defendants that such behavior cannot be tolerated, it is also necessary to make that clear to the rest of society," the prosecutor argued.
The prosecutor also proposed that the court should find the defendants guilty of demonstrating sympathy for a movement aimed at suppressing human rights and freedoms on the basis of eyewitness testimony. She pointed out that the young men are being prosecuted separately for having given the Nazi salute in a train full of passengers.
According to the prosecutor, Satora is involved in several criminal proceedings - on 4 December yet another proceedings had begun against him for giving the Nazi salute in a bar and shouting the slogans "death to Polish Jews" and "white death". Satora's response to those charges was that he was not the person to give the Nazi salute in the bar but that those who did left just before the police arrived.
None of the three charged with the assault on the man in the tram deny the attack took place, but claim they had nothing to do with it. Their defense attorneys told the court on 5 December that no eyewitnesses had confirmed it was exactly the three youths charged who were responsible for the assault.
Defense attorneys also cast doubt on the results of the lineup during which the victim identified the youths as his attackers. The victim also indicated that some men in the lineup who were not suspects had been involved in the assault.
According to the defendants, there is no other evidence of their guilt. The defense attorneys also pointed out that even though other criminal proceedings have begun against the youths, they have yet to be convicted of anything.
The victim is seeking CZK 300 000 [EUR 11 760] from the defendants in moral damages. The victim originally sought another CZK 304 000 [EUR 11 915] as compensation for lost wages, but eventually withdrew that demand out of fear that the defendants would learn his identity in association with the data he would have to provide to receive payment.
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